By the end of February over 19% of the year will be behind you. Think about that for a minute. If you follow a financial calendar year you probably put your Annual Plan to bed in October and now nearly 20% of the available selling time has already gone. Shocker!
How would you describe progress so far? Pick a phrase:
Steady progress in a challenging environment.
Defending share under concerted competitor pressure.
Starting to deliver anticipated operational improvements.
Bottom line erosion due to conversion rates.
Sales dip on change in consumer behaviour.
Excuses, excuses, excuses!
Certainly, there are many, many reasons why performance is not up to expectation and not everyone in a particular sector can achieve their objectives. Unless you are creating new demand, there is only 1 pie for you and your competitors to feast upon. What’s up your sleeve could be innovation.
After the mad rush to end last year and kick off 2018 now is a great time to review your innovation programme. In the same way in-market activation planning should reach far into the future, your innovation funnel should be planned on at least a 12-month rolling basis and longer depending on your specific lead times.
So, do you have some big bold innovations on which your annual plan was designed? Something that competitors do not have? Perhaps your boffins in white coats have come up with a new ingredient or chemical combo that really does make colours brighter and whites whiter. Being able to bring something genuinely new to consumers is a marketing and sales dream to drive growth.
Or is your ‘innovation’ simply another round of at best cosmetic refreshment and at worse, not really innovation at all? If your funnel is packed full of chaff you may not understand how this can adversely affect your supply chain. Here are just a few examples of chaff innovation which probably cause more damage to the business than what is generated in return.
- A new label for a bottle.
- ‘New & Improved’ when the new formulation is a cost saving tweak.
- A salami job on your SKU, e.g. the incredible shrinking chocolate bars.
- Economy packs which need a degree in mathematics to understand the offering.
- X% extra free and BOGOF.
Don’t get me wrong, you do need to do some of this type of stuff but don’t kid yourself you are innovating.
Many companies fill up their innovation funnels with events which are activities rather than growth generating innovation. Don’t do it! Activities rightfully have a place in your business model, but it is important to understand the impact these have on your business. Each activity requires resources to be deployed across all functions to get the SKU in front of consumers. Is the benefit of the activity really paying back when you consider the cost and time expended?
Look at the dictionary definitions and bear these in mind when you are next presented with an innovation funnel update.
Innovation: the introduction of new things, ideas, or ways of doing something
Activity: a thing that you do for interest or pleasure, or to achieve a particular aim
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles atfreedigitalphotos.net